Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 12 ~ Rebecca J. Gomez ~ Poetic Techniques in Rhyming Picture Books

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Ninja Chicks image

Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks

by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

Illustrated by Dan Santat

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Honor Book

Congratulations Corey and Rebecca!


See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

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More Than Rhyme: Using Poetic Techniques in Rhyming Picture Books

by Rebecca J. Gomez

There’s something special about a good rhyming picture book. When you read it, the words roll off your tongue in a rhythmic cascade, making it a real pleasure to read aloud. But there is more to a good rhyming picture book than its flawless meter and rhyme.

What makes a rhyming picture book more than a good story that rhymes is the way the author uses language. When an author uses poetic techniques beyond rhyme and meter in the text, it becomes less like a rhyming story and more like poetry.

Here are some ways that you can use poetic techniques to make your rhyming picture books truly shine.

Assonance, consonance, and alliteration. Using these in your writing is like sprinkling your manuscript with “ear candy.” When used well, these poetic techniques add fun and flavor to your text.

Internal rhymes. These can be delightful surprises, like the cream filling in cupcake!

Check out this example from TEENY TINY TOADY by Jill Esbaum for an example of alliteration and internal rhymes:

Brothers tumbled, bumble-jumble,

as they stumbled for the door.

“Don’t you worry, kid. We’ll save her!”

Off the seven toadies tore.

(TEENY TINY TOADY also has a lot of fun onomatopoeia.)

Onomatopoeia.  These little words and phrases can show a lot with just one word! Consider the words pop, scritch, or bang. Each of them gives you an impression of something happening behind the sound, such as a balloon bursting, a fingernail scratching, or a door slamming shut.

Repetition. Using repetition in your writing can build tension, create emphasis, or encourage young readers to anticipate what is coming.

Simile and metaphor. Both of these devices will help you be concisely creative. A well-placed simile or metaphor can affect mood, describe a setting, or evoke an emotion. In the following example from HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS, the metaphor is used for humor:

The fox said, “Surrender?

No way, chicken tender!”

Emotive language. This is what I think of as showing while telling. Using the right words to tell WHAT is happening can serve double duty by eliciting an emotional response. Word choice is key; think beyond the literal. Consider this line from WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?:

He spotted and jotted down

all imperfections

while marching around

doing careful inspections.

The phrase “marching around” shows Moose’s state of mind as he’s inspecting his friends’ work.

Imagery. Your words are meant to paint a picture. In a rhyming text, your goal should be to create an image in your readers’ minds using the fewest words possible. It’s often the surprising, clever combinations of simple words and phrases that evoke the most vivid pictures! Consider this stanza from BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson:

An itty-bitty mouse

pitter-pat, tip-toe,

creep-crawls in the cave

from the fluff-cold snow.

Do you see the tiny mouse sneaking into the cave? Can you see the fluffly snow and feel the chill? All of this was accomplished with very few brilliantly used ordinary words (and a few other poetic techniques as well).

I encourage you to read a lot of rhyming picture books, and make note of the various poetic techniques employed in each. Are there any that work especially well for you? Any that seem overdone? Then put poetic techniques into practice in your own picture book manuscripts!

One blue star

Rebecca headshot

Rebecca J. Gomez is the coauthor, along with Corey Rosen Schwartz, of two rhyming picture books, WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? and HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys working in her art journals, hiking through the woods, and hanging out with her family. She lives in Nebraska with her husband, three kids, two poodles, and one parrotlet.


twitter (@gomezwrites)

website www.rebeccajgomez.com

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56 thoughts on “Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 12 ~ Rebecca J. Gomez ~ Poetic Techniques in Rhyming Picture Books

  1. I love the concept of “ear candy,” as it seems quite accurate! Oh how the sweet sounds of rhyme and rhythm can roll off the tongue and appeal to the ear, especially when combined with the other techniques mentioned. I’m a particular fan of alliteration. Thanks for this helpful post!

  2. Using an economy of words to provide visualisation for the reader – that’s what it’s all about. Thank you for the post, Rebecca.

  3. Really loved your comment of ‘ear candy.’ Hadn’t thought of poetic devises quite in thank way but that is so accurate. Thank you for the examples and explanation of those devices. Thanks for your post.

  4. “When an author uses poetic techniques beyond rhyme and meter in the text, it becomes less like a rhyming story and more like poetry.” So true! Thanks for showing various techniques to accomplish this in our work.

  5. Yes, I love reading a rhyming story that lets me “sing” it. That takes hard work to produce! Thanks for the tips to help me do that.

  6. Great post! That is a great idea of reading other books and spotting the techniques used in them. I will have to try that in order to help my own work. Thanks!

  7. Thanks Rebecca! You have provided such great examples for all of theses poetic techniques. It’s exciting to think of all the options!

  8. A lovely post, Rebecca! Thank you for your examples and as so many have stated, “ear candy” is a wonderful non-caloric way to add spice, flavor, and deliciousness to all our writing!

  9. Thank you so much, Rebecca. I need to print up this list and tape it to my writing desk. I do sometimes get so caught up in the technical aspects of the rhyme and story that the poetic joy gets set aside.

  10. “The words roll off your tongue in a rhythmic cascade . . . .” This is a post to read and re-read. You’ve used such poetic language in your descriptions of poetic language!

  11. REBECCA: In my comment for yesterday’s Rhyme Revolution post, I said that rhythm is everything in poetry. I stand corrected after reading your post today. THANK YOU for sharing your wisdom! I especially appreciate your thought that “when an author uses poetic techniques beyond rhyme and meter in the text, it becomes less like a rhyming story and more like poetry.” BRILLIANT! BEAUTIFUL! I CAN’T WAIT to try my hand at the techniques you have shared! THANK YOU!!!!

  12. Thanks for the reminder that lyrical language is the whipped cream and cherry on top of the icing on the rhyming cake!

  13. Rebecca,
    Your list of ear candy is making me hungry to create some of my own. Thanks for the useful post. I’m reprinting it and sticking in my rhyming MS journals!

  14. Thanks for your informative post. The examples you shared were wonderful. I’m looking forward to reading the complete picture books soon.

  15. Thanks for the reminders of all of the tools we should be considering, as we draft pieces out of carefully-chosen words. We get precious few words in picture books, and in rhyme, they have to be laid ever-so-deliberately! Using these techniques will help us use just the right words in just the right ways! ❤

  16. I read What About Moose each year to my second grade classes. They really enjoy it. I better get Ninja Chicks. I thank you for the wonderful examples that you give for the techniques. Very helpful!

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